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are mirrors that may reflect all shades and all | Beautiful, already referred to, has o served, colours; and, in point of fact, do seldom reflect not only that there appears to him to be no ihe same hues twice. No two interesting inconsistency or impropriety in such expresobjects, perhaps, whether known by the name sions as the sublime beauties of nature, or of of Beautiful, Sublime, or Picturesque, ever the sacred Scriptures;—but has added, in exproduced exactly the same emotion in the press terms, that, “to oppose the beautiful to oeholder; and no one object, it is most pro- ihe sublime, or to the picturesque, strikes him bable, ever moved any two persons to the as something analogous to a contrast between very same conceptions. As they may be as- the beautiful and the comic—the beautiful sociated with all the feelings and affections and the tragic—the beautiful and the pathetic of which the human mind is susceptible, so --or the beautiful and ihe romantic." they may suggest those feelings in all their The only other advantage which we shall variety, and, in fact, do daily excite all sorts specify as likely to result from the general of emotions-running through every gradation, adoption of the theory we have been endeafrom extreme gaiety and elevation, to the vouring to illustrate is, that it seems calcuborders of horror and disgust.
lated to put an end to all these perplexing Now, it is certainly true, that all the variety and vexatious questions about the standard of emotions raised in this way, on the single of taste, which have given occasion to basis of association, may be classed, in a rude much impertinent and so much elaborate disway, under the denominations of sublime, çussion. If things are not beautiful in thembeautiful, and picturesque, according as they selves, but only as they serve to suggest inpartake of awe, tenderness, or admiration : teresting conceptions to the mind, then every and we have no other objection to this nomen- thing which does in point of fact suggest such clature, except its extreme imperfection, and a conception to any individual, is beautiful to the delusions to which we know that it has that individual; and it is not only quite true given occasion. If objects that interest by that there is no room for disputing about Their association with ideas of power, and tastes, but that all tastes are equally just and danger, and terror, are to be distinguished by correct, in so far as each individual speaks the peculiar name of sublime, why should only of his own emotions. When a man calls there not be a separate name also for objects a thing beautiful, however, he may indeed that interest by associations of mirth and mean to make two very different assertions; gaiety-another for those that please by sug--he may mean that it gives him pleasure by gestions of softness and melancholy-another suggesting to him some interesting emotion; for such as are connected with impressions and, in this sense, there can be no doubt that, of comfort and tranquillity-and another for if he merely speak truth, the thing is beautithose that are related to pity, and admiration, ful; and that it pleases him precisely in the and love, and regret, and all the other distinct same way that all other things please those emotions and affections of our nature? These to whom they appear beautiful. But if he are not in reality less distinguishable from mean farther to say that the thing possesses each other, than from the emotions of awe some quality which should make it appear and veneration that confer the title of sublime beautiful to every other person, and that it is on their representatives; and while all the owing to some prejudice or defect in them if former are confounded under the comprehen- it appear otherwise, then he is as unreasonasive appellation of beauty, this partial attempt ble and absurd as he would think those who at distinction is only apt to mislead us into an should attempt to convince him that he felt erroneous opinion of our accuracy, and to no emotion of beauty. make us believe, both that there is a greater All tastes, then, are equally just and true, conformity among the things that pass under in so far as concerns the individual whose the same name, and a greater difference be- taste is in question ; and what a man feels tween those that pass under different names, distinctly to be beautiful, is beautiful to him, than is really the case. We have seen already, whatever other people may think of it. All that the radical error of almost all preceding this follows clearly from ihe theory now in inquirers, has lain in supposing that every question: but it does not follow, from it, that thing that passed under the name of beautiful, all tastes are equally good or desirable, or must have some real and inherent quality in that there is any difficulty in describing iha. common with every thing else that obtained which is really the best, and the most to be that name: And it is scarcely necessary for envied. The only use of the faculty of taste, us to observe, that it has been almost as gene- is to afford an innocent delight, and to assist ral an opinion, that sublimity was not only in the cultivation of a finer morality; and that something radically different from beauty, man certainly will have the most delight from but actually opposite to it; whereas the fact this faculty, who has the most numerous and is, that it is far more nearly related to some the most powerful perceptions of beauty. sorts of beauty, than many sorts of beauty are But, if beauty consist in the reflection of our to each other; and that both are founded ex- affections and sympathies, it is plain that he actly upon tlie same principle of suggesting will always see ihe most beauty whose affecsome past or possible emotion of some sentient tions are the warmest and most exercised
whose imagination is the most powerful, and Upon this important point, we are happy to who has most accustomed himself to attend to find our opinions confirmed by the authority the objects by which he is surrounded. In so of Mr. Stewart, who, in his Essay on the l far as mere feeling and enjoyment are con
cerned, therefore, it seems evident, that the of theirs that the public would be astonished best taste must be that which belongs to the or offended, if they were called upon to join hest affections, the most active fancy, and the in that admiration. So long as no such call most attentive habits of observation. It will is maile, this anticipateil discrepancy of feel. follow pretty exactly too, that all men's per- ing neeil give them no uneasiness, and the ceptions of beauty will be nearly in proportion suspicion of it should produce no contempt in to the degree of their sensibility and social any other persons. It is a strange aberration sympathies; and that those who have no af- indeed of vanity that makes us despise persections towarıls sentient beings, will be as sons for being happy-for having sources of certainly insensible to beauty in external ob- enjoyment in which we cannot share :-and jects, as he, who cannot hear the sound of yet this is the true source of the ridicule, his friend's voice, must be deaf to its echo. which is so generally poured upon individuals
In so far as the sense of beauty is regarded who seek only to enjoy their peculiar tastes as a mere source of enjoyment, ihis seems to unmolested :—for, if there be any truth in the be the only distinction that deserves to be theory we have been expounding, no taste is attendel to; and the only cultivation that bad for any other reason than because it is taste should ever receive, with a view to the peculiar-as the objects in which it delights gratification of the individual, should be must actually serve to suggest to the indithrough the indirect channel of cultivating vidual those common emotions and universal the affections and powers of observation. If affections upon which the sense of beauty is we aspire, however, to be creators, as well as every where founded. The misfortune is, observers of beauty, and place any part of however, that we are apt to consider all perour happiness in ministering to the gratifica- sons who make known their peculiar relishes, tion of others—as artists, or poets, or authors and especially all who create any objects for of any sort—then, indeeil
, a new distinction their gratification, as in some measure dicof tastes, and a far more laborious system of lating to the public, and setting up an idol for cultivation, will be necessary. A man who general adoration; and hence this intolerant pursues only his own delight, will be as much interference with almost all peculiar percep. charmed with objects that suggest powerful tions of beauty, and the unsparing derision emotions in consequence of personal and ac- that pursues all deviations from acknowledged cidental associations, as with those that intro- standards. This intolerance, we admit, is often duce similar emotions by means of associa- provoked by something of a spirit of proselyttions that are universal and indestructible. ism and arrogance, in those who mistake their To him, all objects of the former class are own casual associations for natural or univerreally as beautiful as those of the latter-and sal relations; and the consequence is, that for his own gratification, the creation of that mortified vanity ultimately dries up, even for sort of beauty is just as important an occupa- them, the fountain of their peculiar enjoytion: but if he conceive the ambition of cre- ment; and disenchants, by a new association ating beauties for the admiration of others, he of general contempt or ridicule, the scenes must be cautious to employ only such objects that had been consecrated by some innocent as are the natural signs, or the inseparable but accidental emotion. concomitants of emotions, of which the greater As all men must have some peculiar assopart of mankind are susceptible; and his ciations, all men must have some peculiar taste will then deserve to be called bad and notions of beauty, and, of course, to a certain false, if he obtrude upon the public, as beau- extent, a taste that the public would be entiful, objects that are not likely to be associa- titled to consider as false or vitiated. For ted in common minds with any interesting those who make no demands on public admiimpressions.
ration, however, it is hard to be obliged to Por a man himself, then, there is no taste sacrifice this source of enjoyment; and, even that is either bad or false; and the only dif- for those who labour for applause, the wisest ference worthy of being attended to, is that course, perhaps, if it were only practicable, between a great deal and a very little. Some would be, to have two tastes-one to enjoy, who have cold affections, sluggish imagina- and one to work by-one founded upon unicions, and no habits of observation, can with versal associations, according to which they difficulty discern beauty in any thing; while finished those performances for which they others, who are full of kindness and sensi- challenged universal praise--and another guidbility, and who have been accustomed to at- ed by all casual and individual associations, tend to all the objects around them, feel it through which they might still look fondly almost in every thing. It is no matter what upon nature, and upon the objects of their other people may think of the objects of their secret admiration. admiration; nor ought it to be any concern
(November, 1812.) De la Littérature considérée dans ses Rapports avec les Institutions Sociales. Par Mad. LE
Staël-HOLSTEIN. Avec un Précis de la Vie et les Ecrits de l'Auteur. 2 tomes. 12mu. pp. 600. London: 1812.*
When we say that Madame de Staël is de- ! and manners; or who has thrown so strong a cidedly the most eminent literary female of light upon the capricious and apparently un. her age, we do not mean to deny that there accountable diversities of national taste, gemay be others whose writings are of more di- nius, and morality—by connecting them with rect and indisputable utility—who are distin- the political structure of society, the accidents guished by greater justness and sobriety of of climate and external relation, and the vathinking, and may pretend to have conferred riety of creeds and superstitions. In her lighter more practical benefits on the existing genera- works, this spirit is indicated chiefly by the tion. But it is impossible, we think, to deny, force and comprehensiveness of those general that she has pursued a more lofty as well as observations with which they abound; and a more dangerous career ;-that she has treat- which strike at once, by their justness and ed of subjects of far greater difficulty, and far novelty, and by the great extent of their apmore extensive interest; and, even in her plication. They prove also in how remarkfailures, has frequently given indication of able a degree she possesses the rare talent greater powers, than have sufficed for the of embodying in one luminous proposition success of her more prudent contemporaries. those sentiments and impressions which float
While other female writers have contented unquestioned and undefined over many an themselves, for the most part, with embel- understanding, and give a colour to the chalishing or explaining the truths which the racter, and a bias to the conduct, of multitudes, more robust intellect of the other sex had who are not so much as aware of their exist. previously established-in making knowledge ence. Besides all this, her novels bear more familiar, or virtue more engaging-or, testimony to the extraordinary accuracy and at most, in multiplying the finer distinctions minuteness of her observation of human chawhich may be detected about the boundaries racter, and to her thorough knowledge of of taste or of morality—and in illustrating the those dark and secret workings of the heart, importance of the minor virtues to the general by which misery is so often elaborated from happiness of life—this distinguished person the pure element of the affections. Her has not only aimed at extending the bounda- knowledge, however, we must say, seems to ries of knowledge, and rectifying the errors of be more of evil than of good : For the prereceived opinions upon subjects of the greatest dominating sentiment in her fictions is, despair importance, but has vigorously applied her. of human happiness and human virtue ; and self to trace out the operation of general their interest is founded almost entirely on causes, and, by combining the past with the the inherent and almost inevitable heartlesspresent, and pointing out the connection and ness of polished man. The impression which reciprocal action of all coexistent phenomena, they leave upon the mind, therefore, though to develope the harmonious system which ac- powerfully pathetic, is both painful and hutually prevails in the apparent chaos of human miliating; at the same time that it proceeds, affairs; and to gain something like an assur- we are inclined to believe, upon the double ance as to the complexion of that futurity to- error of supposing that the bulk of intelligent wards which our thoughts are so anxiously people are as selfish as those splendid vicums driven, by the selfish as well as the generous of fashion and philosophy from whom her chaprinciples of our nature.
racters are selected; and that a sensibility to We are not acquainted, indeed, with any unkindness can long survive the extinction writer who has made such bold and vigorous of all kindly emotions. The work before attempts to carry the generalizing spirit of us, however, exhibits the fairest specimen true philosophy into the history of literature which we have yet seen of the systematizing
spirit of the author, as well as of the moral * I reprint this paper as containing a more com. enthusiasm by which she seems to be posprehensive view of the progress of Literature, es. 'sessed. pecially in the ancient world, ihan any other from The professed object of this work is to show which I could make the selection; and also, in that all the peculiarities in the literature of some degree, for the sake of the general discussion different ages and countries, may be explained on Perfectibility, which I siill think satisfactorily conducted. I regret that, in the body of the article by a reference to the condition of society, and the portions that are taken from Madame de Staël the political and religious institutions of each; are not better discriminated from those for which I –and at the same time, to point out in what only am responsible. The reader, however, will way the progress of letters has in its turn not go
far wrong, if he attribute to that distinguished modified and affected the government and person the greater part of what may strike him as bold, imaginative, and original; and leave to me
religion of those nations among whom they the humbler province of the sober, corrective, and have flourished. All this, however, is bot(listrustful.
| tomed upon the more fundamental and fa.
vourite proposition, that there is a progress, to There is a very eloquent and high-toned produce these effects—that letters and intelli- Introduction, illustrating, in a general way, gence are in a state of constant, universal, and the influence of literature on the morals, the irresistible advancement—in other words, that glory, the freedom, and the enjoyments of the human nature is tending, by a slow and inter- people among whom it flourishes. It is full minable progression, to a state of perfection. of brilliant thoughts and profound observaThis fascinating idea seems to have been kept tions; but we are most struck with those constantly in view by Madame de Staël, from sentiments of mingled triumph and mortifithe beginning to the end of the work before cation by which she connects these magnifius ;—and though we conceive it to have been cent speculations with the tumultuous aspect pursued with far too sanguine and assured a of the times in which they were nourished. spirit, and to have led in this way to most of what is rash and questionable in her conclu
“Que ne puis-je rappeler tous les esprits éclairés sions, it is impossible to doubt that it has also à la jouissance des méditations philosophiques. Les
contemporains d'une Révolution perdent souvent helped her to many explanations that are tout iniérêt à la recherche de la vérité. Tant d'évé. equally solid and ingenious, and thrown a nemens décidés par la force, tant de crimes absous light upon many phenomena that would other par le succès, tant de vertus flétries par le blâme, wise have appeared very dark and unac- iant d'infortunes insultées par le pouvoir, tant de countable.
sentimens généreux devenus l'objet de la moquerie, In the range which she here takes, indeed, tout lasse de l'espérance les hommes les plus fidèles
tant de vils calculs philosophiquement commentés; she has need of all the lights and all the aids au culte de la raison. Néanmoins ils doivent se that can present themselves ;—for her work ranimer en observant, dans l'histoire de l'esprit contains a critique and a theory of all the humain, qu'il n'a existé ni une pensée utile, ni une literature and philosophy in the world, from vérité profonde qui n'ait trouvé son siècle et ses the days of Homer to the tenth year of the admirateurs. C'est sans doute un triste effort que French' revolution. She begins with the early travers l'avenir, sur nos successeurs, sur les étran.
de transporter son intérêt, de reposer son attente, à learning and philosophy of Greece; and after gers bien loin de nous, sur les inconnus, sur tous characterizing the national taste and genius les hommes enfin dont le souvenir et l'image ne of that illustrious people, in all its depart- peuvent se retracer à notre esprit. Mais, hélas ! si ments, and in the different stages of their l'on en excepte quelques amis inaltérables, la plu. progress, she proceeds to a similar investi- part de ceux qu'on se rappelle après dix années de gation of the literature and science of the mouvemens, en imposent à votre talent même, non
révolution, contristent votre cœur, étouffent vos Romans; and then, after a hasty sketch of par leur supériorité, mais par cette malveillance qui the decline of arts and letters in the later ne cause de la douleur qu'aux ames douces, et ne days of the empire, and of the actual progress fait souffrir que ceux qui ne la méritent pas."'-Tom. of the human mind during the dark ages,
i. p. 27, 28. when it is supposed to have slumbered in The connection between good morals and complete inactivity, she enters upon a more that improved state of intelligence which detailed examination of the peculiarities, and Madame de Staël considers as synonymous the causes of the peculiarities, of all the dif- with the cultivation of literature, is too obvi. ferent aspects of national taste and genius that ous to require any great exertion of her talents characterize the literature of Italy, Spain, for its elucidation. She observes, with great England, Germany, and France-entering, as truth, that much of the guilt and the misery to each, into a pretty minute exposition of its which are vulgarly imputed to great talents, general merits and defects—and not only of really arise from not having talent enoughthe circumstances in the situation of the coun- and that the only certain cure for the errors try that have produced those characteristics, which are produced by superficial thinking, but even of the authors and productions, in is to be found in thinking more deeply:-At which they are chiefly exemplified. To go the same time it ought not to be forgotten, through all this with tolerable success, and that all men have not the capacity of thinkwithout committing any very gross or ridicu- ing deeply—and that the most general cultilous blunders, evidently required, in the first vation of literature will not invest every one place, a greater allowance of learning than with talents of the first order. If there be a has often fallen to the lot of persons of the degree of intelligence, therefore, that is more learned gender, who lay a pretty bold claim unfavourable to the interests of morality and to distinction upon the ground of their learn- just opinion, than an utter want of intelliing alone; and, in the next place, an extent gence, it may be presumed, that, in very enof general knowledge, and a power and com- lightened times, this will be the portion of prehensiveness of thinking, that has still more the greater multitude—or at least that nations rarely been the ornament of great scholars. and individuals will have to pass through this Madame de Staël may be surpassed, perhaps, troubled and dangerous sphere, in their way in scholarship (so far as relates to accuracy at to the loftier and purer regions of perfect unleast, if not extent,) by some-and in sound derstanding. The better answer therefore philosophy by others. But there are few in- probably is, that it is not intelligence that deed who can boast of having so much of does the mischief in any case whatsoever, both; and no one, so far as we know, who but the presumption that sometimes accomhas applied the one to the elucidation of the panies the lower degrees of it; and which is other with so much boldness and success. | best disjoined from them, by making the But it is time to give a little more particular higher degrees more attainable. It is quite acconnt of her lucubrations.
true, as Madame de Staël observes, that the power of public opinion, which is the only lofty aims which connect us with a long sure and ultimate guardian either of freedom futurity. or of virtue, is greater or less exactly as the The introduction ends with an eloquent public is more or less enlightened; and that profession of the author's unshaken faith in ihis public can never be trained to the habit ihe philosophical creed of Perfectibility :of just and commanding sentiments, except upon which, as it does not happen to be our under the influence of a sound and progressive creed, and is very frequently brought into literature. The abuse of power, and the notice in the course of the work, we must abuse of the means of enjoyment, are the here be indulged with a few preliminary great sources of misery and depravity in an observations. advanced stage of society. Both originate This splendid illusion, which seems to have with those who stand on the highest stages succeeded that of Optimism in the favour of of human fortune; and the cure is to be found, philosophical enthusiasts, and rests, like it, in both cases, only in the enlightened opinion upon the notion that the whole scheme of a of those who stand a little lower.
beneficent Providence is to be developed in Liberty, it will not be disputed, is still this world, is supported by Madame de Staël more clearly dependent on intelligence than upon a variety of grounds: and as, like most morality itself. When the governors are ig- other illusions, it has a considerable admixnorant, they are naturally tyrannical. Force ture of truth, it is supported, in many points, is the obvious resource of those who are inca- upon grounds that are both solid and ingenipable of convincing; and the more unworthy ous. She relies chiefly, of course, upon the any one is of the power with which he is in- experience of the past; and, in particular, vested, the more rigorously will he exercise upon the marked and decided superiority of that power. But it is in the intelligence of the moderns in respect of thought and reflecthe people themselves that the chief bulwark tion-their more profound knowledge of hu. of their freedom will be found to consist, and man feelings, and more comprehensive views all the principles of political amelioration to of human affairs. She ascribes less importoriginate. This is true, however, as Madame ance than is usually done to our attainments de Staël observes, only of what she terms in mere science, and the arts that relate to "la haute littérature ;" or the general cultiva- matter; and augurs less confidently as to the tion of philosophy, eloquence, history, and future fortune of the species, from the exploits those other departments of learning which of Newton, Watt, and Davy, than from those refer chiefly to the heart and the understand- of Bacon, Bossuet, Locke, Hume, and Voltaire, ing, and depend upon a knowledge of human In eloquence, too, and in taste and fancy, she nature, and an attentive study of all that admits that there has been a less conspicuous contributes to its actual enjoyments. What advancement; because, in these things, there is merely for delight, again, and addresses is a natural limit or point of perfection, which itself exclusively to the imagination, has has been already attained : But there are no neither so noble a genealogy, nor half so boundaries to the increase of human knowillustrious a progeny. Poetry and works of ledge, or to the discovery of the means of hugaiety and amusement, together with music man happiness; and every step that is gained and the sister arts of painting and sculpture, in those higher walks, is gained, she conceives, have a much slighter connection either with for posterity, and for ever. virtue or with freedom. Though among their The great objection derived from the signal most graceful ornaments, they may yet flour-check which the arts and civility of life reish under tyrants, and be relished in the midst ceived from the inroads of the northern barof the greatest and most debasing corruption barians on the decline of the Roman power, of manners. It is a fine and a just remark and the long period of darkness and degradatoo, of Madame de Staël, that the pursuits tion which ensued, she endeavours to obviate, which minister to mere delight, and give to by a very bold and ingenious speculation. It life its charm and voluptuousness, generally is her object here to show that the invasion produce a great indifference about dying. of the northern tribes not only promoted their They supersede and displace all the stronger own civilization more effectually than any passions and affections, by which alone we thing else could have done, but actually im. are bound very closely to existence; and, parted to the genius of the vanquished, a while they habituate the mind to transitory character of energy, solidity, and seriousness, and passive impressions, seem naturally con- which could never have sprung up of itselt nected with those images of indolence and in the volatile regions of the South. The intoxication and slumber, to which the idea amalgamation of the two races, she thinks, of death is so readily assimilated, in charac. has produced a mighty improvement on both; ters of this description. When life, in short, and the vivacity, the elegance and versatility is considered as nothing more than an amuse- of the warmer latitudes, been mingled, inment, its termination is contemplated with finitely to their mutual advantage, with the far less emotion, and its course, upon the majestic melancholy, the profound thought, whole, is overshadowed with deeper clouds and the sterner morality of the North. This of ennui, than when it is presented as a scene combination, again, she conceives, could have of high duties and honourable labours, and been effected in no way so happily as by the holds out to us at every turn-not the perish- successful invasion of ihe ruder people; and able pastimes of the passing hour, but the the conciliating influence of that common fixed and distant objects of those serious and faith, which at once repressed the frivolous,